Activist Maryia Kalesnikava charged under three articles. She may face up to 12 years in jail

Мaryia Kalesnikava.
Photo: Belsat

Ultimate charges have been brought against Maryia Kalesnikava, an opposition politician and member of the Coordination Council, might-have-been presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka’s team says on Telegram.

The Investigative Committee has ruled that Maryia Kalesnikava is be tried for calling for ‘calling for actions aimed at harming the national security (Art. 361-3 of the Criminal Code); conspiracy to seize state power in an unconstitutional way (Article 357-1); establishing and ruling an extremist group (Article 361-1).

If found guilty under these articles, Maryia Kalesnikava may face up to 12 years in prison. Now she is studying the case materials together with her defence lawyers.

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A day earlier, an excerpt from Kalesnikava’s letter appeared on her Facebook page, According to the political prisoner, she does not regret the decision to join the election campaign of Viktar Babaryka who announced his intention to run for presidency a year ago, on May 12.

“This year has turned out to be the most difficult and the happiest year in my life. I realise that one may be surprised at hearing that from a prisoner, but I did gain a lot more than I lost: unique experience, incredible drive, a lot of new knowledge and skills (for example, I had never made a livestream before, never written 170 letters a month, never jogged every day and never read so many good books). I have gained inner freedom and happiness to remain true to myself in any situation,” she wrote.

On September 7, Maryia Kalesnikava was kidnapped near the National Art Museum in Minsk. Unidentified people drove her away in an unknown direction. As it turned out later, the politician spent half a day in the Main Directorate for Combating Organised Crime and Corruption; then she was taken to the State Security Committee (KGB), where the chekists demanded she voluntarily depart from Belarus. According to her, several KGB officers voiced threats to take her life.

“They warned that if I did not voluntarily leave the territory of the Republic of Belarus, I would still be withdrawn – ‘alive or ‘in pieces’,” Maryia said.

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On September 8, Coordination Council spokesman Anton Radnyankou and secretary Ivan Krautsou who were forced out of Belarus gave a press conference in Kyiv. They told how the KGB failed to push Kalesnikava out the country. In the neutral zone, she destroyed her passport, jumped out of the car and returned to the Belarusian border.

In mid September, Kalesnikava was charged under Art. 361-3 of the Criminal Code (‘calling for actions aimed at harming the national security with the use of mass media and the Internet’).

In December, the Prosecutor General’s Office launched criminal proceedings over conspiring, establishing ‘an extremist group’, being in control of it, financing its activities against members of the Coordination Council, including Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Maryia Kalesnikava, Maksim Znak, Pavel Latushka, Volha Kavalkova, Syarhei Dyleuski, and other Belarusian activists.

In the run-up to International Women’s Day, the US Department of State announced the list of recipients of the 2021 International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award. Belarusian Maryia Kalesnikava is among this year’s laureates.

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